Grasshoppers / nsenene – will you eat them or smoke them?
A storm had been brewing since an intensely hot morning and a few drops of rain spattered onto my new umbrella as I walked out of the Buganda Road restaurant.
Little did I know what I was heading into.
It was fun at first, stepping though the raindrops, tremendous cracks of thunder overhead but within a few steps it was ‘coming down stair rods’, a solid, vertical downpouring. I hung onto the umbrella hard but it only served to keep my head and bag dry(ish) as waves engulfed my feet and a strong wind – from nowhere – washed the sheets of hard rain against my body. Wet to the bone in seconds, continuing was no longer an option. I stood beside a bright yellow MTN cabin and screamed as water funnelled down the back of my T shirt.
Torrents of water gushed downhill and the previously busy streets emptied of all but the biggest 4x4s and the maddest matatu [minibus] drivers.
My shelter in the storm was one of many kiosks, this one – in the middle of Kampala – being a very modern fibreglass job. Most are a patchwork of wood, like a garden shed (only of less sound construction!)
I was wondering what to do next when someone pushed open the flap of the fiberglass cabin. A head poked out and shouted “Come in! Come this way!” above the din of the rain and I ran round and took refuge with a man and a lady in the dark metre-square box.
“Thank you for the shelter!” I screamed above the rain, and we laughed as Juma peeled off his shirt and wrung out a pint of water onto the floor.
As the rain pelted down, we spent the next twenty minutes in the dark, talking about the rainy season, Ugandan politics and the cultural differences such as food in Uganda, specifically in relation to eating grasshoppers, or Nsenene in Luganda, currently in season.
I said I don’t eat grasshoppers because ‘silya enyama’ [I don’t eat meat] but apparently Nsenene are not classed as meat.
“I try not to eat them any more” Juma mused, “even though I l like them.” He looked into the distance and spoke like someone trying to give up the fags.
In Kenya he said the same grasshoppers are collected and put on the fire, the smoke believed to keep ghosts away. An educated man, we agreed that eating dogs like the Chinese do wasn’t something we intended to try!